I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
Blumhouse Television and Amazon served up four creep-tastic horror flicks last year under the banner Welcome to the Blumhouse. Now streamer fiends can soak up another quartet of terrors from the house that Jason Blum built. These new standalone scare-features – “Bingo Hell,” “Black as Night,” “Madres” and “The Manor” – are a diverse collection of the most interesting, emerging voices in contemporary horror. Whether it’s exploring themes such as gentrification through a bingo hall connected to the netherworld or the fear of change and death within a nursing home, there’s something to mine from each work.
Fresh Fiction had the opportunity to chat with horror mega-producer Jason Blum via Zoom. We talked about the possibility of Welcome to the Blumhouse returning, what separates these titles from others under the Blumhouse name, and revealing or not revealing secrets in movie trailers.
“I hope to make [‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’] an October tradition.”
– Jason Blum
The following is a transcript of an interview conducted on September 27. Some of the questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
This marks the second year of Welcome to the Blumhouse features. Do you plan to do a new event each year, and will you stay on track with new and emerging filmmakers?
Jason Blum: “I’m very proud of [working with new, emerging talents]. It makes for stories we wouldn’t have expected. These last four movies are about people who are marginalized in some way or another. I don’t think that would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for working with underrepresented filmmakers. So, thank you for the second half of your question. The first half of your question is, there’s no official plans to extend the series, but I can’t see why we wouldn’t. It’s worked out great for Blumhouse. I think Amazon has been very happy about the performance of the movies, and I hope to make it an October tradition.”
What do you look for in a Welcome to the Blumhouse movie that might differ from a theatrical release or even an Into the Dark production (a horror movie anthology series on Hulu tied to seasons of the year)?
“It’s cool because you can look for the parameters. The lane is much wider for streaming movies. A theatrical movie, they have to check certain boxes to be marketed and played theatrically. There are even fewer boxes now coming out of the pandemic, I hope. Knock on my head. So, we can be more playful with what we choose. And one of the reasons I’d like to continue this series – going back to the first question – is we see a lot of scripts on the movie side of the company that we love, but we don’t have the opportunity to make. And the Welcome to the Blumhouse partnership with Amazon has given us a venue to make these movies.”
“Horror comedy, for instance, is an example. It just doesn’t work theatrically, almost ever. Edgar Wright can pull it off sometimes, maybe, but no one else seems to be able to do it, but it works great for streaming. And in two of the four movies, there’s a lot of funny things in them. So, it allows us to get behind movies that are more different and left of center than we can in our theatrical business.”
What new perspectives have these alternate worlds explored in these films given you?
“I think we all learn and grow from understanding other people’s experiences in the world. [For instance, ‘The Manor’ and ‘Bingo Hell’], those are experiences I haven’t had. I’m not old yet. I’m getting close, but I’m not there yet. I’m not retired or living in a home. So, when you see stories about people that are having those experiences, I think it makes you more empathetic and better-rounded people, better citizens of the world as a result.”
What in horror turns you off? What are some of the things that you’d see or hear in a pitch or a script that would make you say that’s not for me, that’s not for Blumhouse?
“Anything about a pandemic turns me off. I’ve been living through a pandemic. I don’t want to make a movie about the pandemic. And then, anything that really feels like it’s already been done. Someone says, ‘I have the new Get Out.’ When people reference our movies to us, that’s not a good way to go. I’ve built the company on trying not to repeat what we’ve done before. I’m not always successful. Some of our movies feel like the movies in the past, but I try to do new things. So, I would say that I don’t want to make this the new Friday the 13th. They already made Friday the 13th. I’ll try not to repeat it if I can help it.”
Lastly, in a world where social media has such a strong connection to the movie industry, and from a producer’s standpoint, information, at times, seems to spread like wildfire. For example, do you believe there’s a limit to how much footage should be shown within movie trailers? And do you think that modern audiences demand it?
“I’m glad you asked that question. I do not. I differ from my dear, dear brothers and sisters, my directors. I think that it is extraordinarily difficult to break through with anything, with a movie or a show, Welcome to the Blumhouse. It’s just very, very hard to get people there. People have so many choices now. It’s very hard to get them to focus on what you want them to focus on. And I think the only way to do that is to show the best parts of your movie or your show. And the directors always say, ‘Well, the audience gets mad with it.’”
“You know what? Very rarely do you come out like, ‘God, I would’ve enjoyed the movie if there was less in the trailer,’ or not see the movie because of the trailer. Now we get complaints about it all the time. People are always mad at us for doing it, but I’d rather people complained and saw my movie than didn’t see the film. I really think that’s the choice. That’s my feeling. But in the filmmaking community, that makes me deeply unpopular.”
All four new Welcome to the Blumhouse films are now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Preston’s personal fave: “The Manor” because Barbara Hershey gives a killer-good performance and plays the whole “I’m not crazy, and everyone else is” very well. The ending is also something very unexpected. We’ve seen stories like this before, like Blumhouse TV’s “The Current Occupant” under the Into the Dark moniker. However, things are twisted just enough in a new direction (with the ending and Hershey’s character’s “screw this” attitude) to give this entry the most weight.